Bloodwork Explained

Complete blood count (CBC) This is the most common blood test performed on pets and people. A CBC gives information on hydration status, anemia, infection, the blood’s clotting ability, and the ability of the immune system to respond to infections. This test is essential for pets with fevers, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, pale gums, or loss of appetite. If your pet needs surgery, a CBC can detect bleeding disorders or other unseen abnormalities. It includes:

HCT (hematocrit) measures the percentage of red blood cells to detect anemia and dehydration.

Hb and MCHC (hemoglobin and mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration) are the oxygen-carrying pigments of red blood cells, correlating with the Hct.

RETICS (reticulocytes) are immature red blood cells. High levels indicate regenerative anemia, i.e. the body is responding appropriately to anemia by replacing lost RBC’s.

PLT (platelet count) measures cells that assist in forming blood clots.

White Blood Cell Count (WBC) measures the body’s immune cells. Increases or decreases may indicate certain diseases, infections (viral or bacterial), allergies, or parasites. It is made up of the following components:

GRANS and L/M’s (granulocytes and lymphocytes/monocytes) are specific infection-fighting cells.

EOS (eosinophils) are cells that may indicate allergic or parasitic conditions.

Blood chemistries These common blood serum tests evaluate organ function, electrolyte status, hormone levels, and more. They are important in evaluating older pets’ health status, pets with vomiting and diarrhea or toxin exposure, pets receiving long-term medications, and their health before anesthesia.

ALB (albumin) Is a serum protein manufactured by the liver that helps evaluate hydration, hemorrhage, and intestinal, liver, and kidney disease.

ALKP (alkaline phosphatase) elevations may indicate liver damage, intestinal inflammation, Cushing’s disease, and active bone growth in young pets. This test is especially significant in cats.

ALT (alanine aminotransferase) is a sensitive indicator of active liver damage but doesn’t indicate the cause.

AMYL (amylase) is a pancreatic enzyme; elevations show pancreatitis or kidney disease.

BUN (blood urea nitrogen) indicates kidney function. An increased blood level is called azotemia and can be caused by kidney, liver, and heart disease, as well as by urethral obstruction, shock, and dehydration.

Ca (calcium) deviations can indicate a variety of diseases. Tumors, hyperparathyroidism, kidney disease, and low albumin are just a few of the conditions that alter serum calcium levels.

CHOL (cholesterol) is used to supplement the diagnosis of hypothyroidism, liver disease, Cushing’s disease, and diabetes mellitus.

CREA (creatinine) reveals kidney function. This test helps distinguish between kidney and non-kidney causes of elevated BUN.

GLOB (globulin) is a blood protein that often increases with chronic inflammation and certain disease states.

GLU (glucose) is a blood sugar. Elevated levels may indicate diabetes mellitus. Low levels can cause collapse, seizures, or coma. It elevates normally with stress, i.e. illness or a visit to The Animal Hospital in a nervous patient (especially in cats)

PHOS (phosphorus) elevations are often associated with kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and bleeding disorders.

TBIL (total bilirubin) elevations may indicate liver, gall bladder, or hemolytic disease. This test helps identify bile duct problems and certain types of anemia.

TP (total protein) indicates hydration status and provides additional information about the liver, kidneys, and infectious diseases.


Na (sodium) is an electrolyte lost with vomiting, diarrhea, and kidney and Addison’s disease. This test helps indicate hydration status.

K (potassium) is an electrolyte lost with vomiting, diarrhea, or excessive urination. Increased levels may indicate kidney failure, Addison’s disease, dehydration, and urethral obstruction. High levels can lead to cardiac arrest, low levels can cause profound weakness.

CI (chloride) is an electrolyte often lost with vomiting and Addison’s disease. Elevations often indicate dehydration.

Cortisol is a hormone that is measured in tests for Cushing’s disease (the low-dose dexamethasone suppression test) and Addison’s disease (ACTH stimulation test).

LIP (lipase) is a pancreatic enzyme that may indicate pancreatitis or kidney disease.

T4 (thyroxine) is a thyroid hormone. Decreased levels often signal hypothyroidism in dogs, while high levels indicate hyperthyroidism in cats.

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